SUCH a treat! Midnight Flit, Elin Gregory’s latest book in The Carstairs Affairs series, was published a few days ago. Seriously, it’s the best thing I’ve read in about a year. I love Miles Siward and Briers Allerdale, and their rollicking 1930s adventure on a train crossing Europe will blow your socks off, it’s so good. Here’s a bit more about it, and the review I’ll be posting up on Amazon and Goodreads in the next day or two.
About The Book
Book Two of The Carstairs Affairs: Miles Siward and Briers Allerdale return for another thrilling Jazz Age adventure.
“Silk stockings on expenses.”
Miles’s aristocratic mother has information of importance to the British Government and he must escort her home from Bucharest immediately, but their plans go violently awry and Miles and Lady Siward find themselves on a train to Belgrade – where Miles’s lover is posted. Since their pursuers are looking for a man and a woman, might two women slip past them unnoticed?
“Is anyone on this train who they say they are?”
Briers doesn’t know whether to kiss Miles or punch him but is delighted to accompany him and his mother on their journey. All he has to do is keep an eye open for their enemies – but who exactly are they; the enormous Russian, the sinister priest, the handsome jazz pianist, or maybe the winsome young movie star? And his mother-in-law might just be the most terrifying of all!
All aboard for the ride of a lifetime, with a cast of characters you’ll never forget.
Publication Date: 14 March 2019
Series Title: The Carstairs Affairs (Get book 1 “Eleventh Hour” here: Universal Link)
Genres: Historical Romance, Spy Thriller
Publisher: Manifold Press
Price £4.45 / $5.75
“Do you miss working for Father?” Miles asked after a moment. “I feel bad that I’ve never asked before, but I was so grateful when you agreed to come back with me and run my little establishment that I suppose it never occurred to me to ask.”
Pritchard paused, his hands full of snowy linen. “Lord bless you, sir, no. Ronald and I were heartily sick of exchanging letters by then, and maybe seeing each other once a year – your father’s commitments allowing. To be offered the chance to come here, with private accommodation provided, was a Godsend. My only worry was that a relationship started in the trenches and continued on paper might not weather more frequent contact.”
Ronald – professional stage manager, natty dresser, a full head taller than Pritchard – was perhaps a little shrill, but one had to be shrill to be heard in theatrical circles. From what little Miles had seen of Pritchard and Ron together, though, they seemed blissfully happy and he wished them well and envied them with all his heart.
“I’m glad,” he said. “Going from valet to His Majesty’s Ambassador in Bucharest to the man-of-all-work of a clerk seems such a come down.”
“We both know that you are far more than a clerk, sir,” Pritchard grinned. “And speaking of more, Bucharest is not that far from Belgrade. While you are there, will there be any chance of meeting with the master?”
Miles snorted. “You mustn’t call Briers that, it only encourages him. He’ll turn up in plus fours and a monocle next, you wait and see!”
“It’s meant affectionately, sir.” Pritchard gave him a serene smile and tucked a rolled black tie and a pair of silk socks in beside the shirt.
“I know, and he loves it.” Miles paused in smiling contemplation of Briers Allerdale – tall where Miles was short, dark where he was fair, a hard-bitten field agent where Miles spent a lot of time at his desk − and thanked his lucky stars that opposites attract. “But sadly I am only going for one night, solely to retrieve Ma and bring her home safely in time for her appointment. A side trip is completely out of the question.
“I understand, sir.” From the sympathetic glint in Pritchard’s eye, Miles knew that he did understand, very well.
Enter this Rafflecoptor to win an e-book version of Book 1 of the Miles and Briars series: “Eleventh Hour”.
Great things happen on steam trains. Murders, stolen diamonds, revolutions, spies… there’s a long-standing British literary and cinema tradition featuring moody shots (filmed in black and white, natch) of a locomotive venting steam at night against a faint halo of light from a distant lamp in some johnny-foreigner-sort of Belle-Epoque railway station where agents of a foreign power lurk in the shadows, threatening the beautiful heroine and handsome, clean-cut hero. Think Richard Hannay fleeing London on the Flying Scotsman, or Miss Marple on the 4.50 from Paddington, or Miss Froy thwarting foreign agents in The Lady Vanishes. There’s a jolly good reason why the Hogwarts Express is steam and not a high-speed bullet train. We Brits don’t see the romance of bullet trains, but steam locos pull at our heartstrings and fire the imagination.
Just a glimpse of that puff of steam and we know we’re in for a treat. We know there’ll be spies and beautiful girls, unexplained corpses and creepy, louche characters wearing soft hats and belted raincoats and probably played on screen by Peter Lorre. There will be upright ex-soldiers, and international agents working for murky Bureaux d’Intelligence in even murkier East European capitals. There will be actresses and sirens, matrons and (probably) nuns. There will be drama, and guns and bombs and possibly a communist uprising. And in the background, one can almost hear the noise of the slow rise of Germany and the coming of the Second World War.
Elin Gregory is one of the best historical novelists I’ve read. She grounds this second adventure of Briers Allerdale and Miles Siward in the frenetic days of the early thirties, when the world was slowly realising that it wasn’t living through a well-earned peace, but merely the respite between two devastating wars. And she has all this—all the scheming and heroism, principle and immorality, duplicity and danger—and she has it down *pat*. And, bless her, she nods to Hannay et al and sets this wonderful adventure on a steam train scudding across central Europe in the middle of the night. What’s more, she manages all this without hitting her reader over the head with historical facts and figures, yet still makes this world work so well and feel so real and have the authentic 1930s flavour.
I won’t say much to spoil the plot, except that it involves Briers and Miles in their alter egos of Brian and Millie Carstairs, Miles Siward’s wonderful mother and his even more wonderful manservant, plus assorted other characters, doing a midnight flit from one of those murky east European capitals. And a midnight flit on a steam train, with almost every single character and situation I mentioned up above.
Except perhaps for the nuns. I missed the nuns.
The relationship between Briers and Miles is sensuous and sweet (rarely explicit, but it doesn’t need to be), against a backdrop where danger lurks at every railway signal box en route. The pacing of the book is excellent. The last third goes with a bang and is just not-put-downable-AT-ALL, and the quirky twist at the end… well, let’s just say that Le Carre would be delighted with the way this book ends and the promise it holds out for book 3.
Because there has to be a Book 3. And the sooner the better.
Highly recommended. Because… well, bliss, and trains, and spies, and high-heels, and steam, and guns, and bangs, and loving relationships. Hannay would be proud.
Elin Gregory lives in South Wales and works in a museum in a castle built on the edge of a Roman Fort! She reckons that’s a pretty cool job.
Elin usually writes on historical subjects and enjoys weaving the weird and wonderful facts she comes across in her research into her plots. She likes her heroes hard as nails but capable of tenderness when circumstances allow. Often they are in danger, frequently they have to make hard choices, but happy endings are always assured.
Current works in progress include one set during the Great War, another in WW2, one set in the Dark Ages and a series of contemporary romances set in a small town on the Welsh border.